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Better work balance, more job satisfaction

How do we at Humanities ensure a better work balance and more job satisfaction? A group of colleagues considered that question on Tuesday afternoon, 31 January. Two members of Academia in Motion also joined in the discussion.

It was a mixed group of colleagues from various institute MTs, support departments, Faculty Board members and delegates from the Faculty Council and the Work Balance in Action Advisory Group that listened as Dean Mark Rutgers explained the administrative 'call to action': 'In recent years, there has been frequent talk about work pressure. It’s a complex problem, which we are dealing with by investing in more FTEs, for example. However, that doesn’t appear to be enough. We also need to look at the various tasks: at our culture, at work processes and procedures and at the pressure on - especially young) - university lecturers. We have therefore spent quite some time recently collecting input. Meanwhile, several possible directions for solutions have been identified. Now it is time to put our plans into practice, but that’s something a Faculty Board cannot do alone. It will take understanding and commitment from the institutes to put these plans into practice.'

After this opening, the session participants got to work in groups. Which solutions did they think were viable? Here, illustrator Elco van Staveren captured the starting points, cornerstones for change and directions for solutions. Watch the videoi report below.

Maarten Bergwerff, policy officer

'The broad dialogue about work balance in a general sense is important, but during the meeting it struck me again how very valuable concrete examples and suggestions are to give us the feeling that we do have an influence on efficiency and workload ourselves. You need that feeling in order to actually take steps, big or small. The meeting also clearly showed that there is definitely no one-size-fits-all: the challenges and solutions are diverse.

As a policy officer whose portfolio includes educational quality assurance, I have been hearing the call for less 'bureaucracy' for years. Although I am convinced that good quality assurance also saves a lot of noise and time, there are certainly issues where I think it could be reduced, but very often that also requires boards to dare to take such steps. Furthermore, I think there are gains to be made, among other things, by better informing and guiding new colleagues, or colleagues who are new to certain positions in educational bodies. Poor handover or instructions can potentially result in a lot of lost time and a lowering of quality, as well as being very demotivating.'

Gea Hakker, head of the Academic Language Centre

'I attended all the meetings on work balance. I found the last two particularly useful, because in them we talked about where the problems lie. That led to a whole list of solutions, from which we were allowed to select the most important ones during this last session by attaching a sticker. What I found striking was that almost every solution got such a sticker. In other words, there is support for almost everything.

‘In my opinion, it is important to take the reducing of the workload one step at a time. If everyone starts small within his or her department, group or training, it can spread really fast. I myself had thought of setting a good example with e-mail. I wanted to stop sending e-mails in the evenings and at weekends, but when I told this to my team, everyone laughed. They actually liked that I responded quickly, also because at ATC we regularly teach in the evening. So, for us, this point was quickly dismissed, but we will definitely look at other ways to reduce the workload. For example, testing in language skills teaching is very intensive, so maybe we can make some efficiency gains there.'

Ylva Klaassen, Institute Manager/ Director of Education at LUCAS, presided over the afternoon.

‘I was struck by how many busy people had taken the time for this afternoon and how many good ideas it generated. They were often small, concrete steps, which are therefore achievableI found it interesting that there was strong consensus on a number of issues, such as better supervision of new colleagues and a reduction in the number of tests, but that otherwise it was very diverse as to what people need for a better work balance. It is good, then, that Work Balance in Action is precisely about setting the level at which we’re looking at work balance low as possible and, above all, providing a goal and tools.

‘In the coming period, we will be holding discussions with a number of administrative bodies, after which we will launch the process for the entire faculty. As far as I’m concerned, the most important thing is that we get to share responsibility for a better work balance, and that all of us - from lecturers to Faculty Board members - will feel that we bring about change ourselves and together. I hope colleagues will talk to each other about what they can do themselves, experiment with it and exchange experiences. Ultimately, a better work balance can only come about if we all take steps and help each other.’

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